Dyslexia and Sound Therapy
Dyslexia is generally thought of as being the tendency to reverse letter forms - a problem of poor spatial orientation and linear sequential orientation. Dyslexia was a major research focus of Sound Therapy pioneer Dr Tomatis; he was one of the first people to discover the importance of the ear with dyslexia.
Dyslexia, meaning "reading difficulty", was originally called "word blindness" and thought to be a visual problem. One of the earliest writers on the subject, Dr Hinshelwood, was an eye surgeon, which may account for the initial emphasis on visual difficulties. Many more recent studies point to language and auditory problems as the fundamental cause.
The information on this page was sourced from the book "Why Aren't I Learning?" by Rafaele Joudry.
It is a great handbook for parents and teachers alike with drug-free treatments you can use at home or in the classroom to overcome dyslexia.
Photo courtesy of SiSter PhotograPher
The role of the ear with dyslexia
Listening is the most basic skill required for verbal communication, and a weakness in listening ability may hinder the development of a strong language base. Consequently, a dyslexic child encounters problems when it comes time to approach the more complex linguistic tasks of writing and reading. If the sounds of speech have not been accurately heard, they cannot be accurately conveyed by symbols.
The left hemisphere of the brain is the main centre for processing language. In order for speech sounds to reach the brain efficiently, the right ear must take a leading role in listening because the right ear communicates most directly with the left hemisphere.
Dr Tomatis contends that people with dyslexia have failed to achieve right ear dominance and thus the order in which they hear sounds becomes jumbled. If they sometimes use the left and sometimes the right ear as the directing ear, sounds may reach the brain at different speeds, so letters will be jumbled. This accounts for errors of reversal, such as writing "was" as "saw" or pronouncing "spaghetti" as "pisghetti".
Both hemispheres of the brain play a role in processing language, but the roles they play are different. The balance between the two hemispheres of the brain is of fundamental importance in overcoming dyslexia.
Using Sound Therapy to help treat Dyslexia
Sound Therapy is a home based program used during daily activities on a portable player. Children listen through earphones to specially filtered classical music, stories and poems which have been selected for their educational value. The filtering process, using a specialist device designed by Dr Tomatis (called the "Electronic Ear"), adds tonal changes and extra high frequency sounds to stimulate the entire auditory system.
The eye must combine with the power and the quality of the ear to make sense of the written sounds. This co-ordination happens easily when the left hemisphere deals primarily with audition and the right hemisphere deals primarily with vision. In dyslexia, the route which allows for phonic analysis has been damaged. Sound Therapy may help restore the functioning of this route and eliminate the cause of the problem.
Tomatis says, "We read with our ears… the ear is the organ of language, the pathway to language assimilation, the key that controls it, the receptor regulating its flow." Sound Therapy stimulates and exercises the ear, encouraging it to receive and interpret sound in an efficient manner.
Music is a highly organised series of sounds that the ear has to analyse. Thus, listening to music is an excellent way to learn how to perceive sounds in an organised fashion, i.e., to listen. The higher volume of sound to the right ear built into all Sound Therapy recordings means that the right ear is educated to be the directing ear. When this right ear dominance is achieved, the problem of reversal will likely disappear.
Boosting confidence and self esteem
Dyslexics often have feelings of inferiority as a result of repeated failure. How unfair that they must work much harder than anyone else only to achieve mediocre results!
Sound Therapy may offer immediate emotional relief because it is a method of treatment that doesn't require extra effort.
Once one is able to receive and interpret sound accurately and easily, his/her ability and motivation to communicate is greatly increased. Thus the problem learner is transformed into a receptive and motivated learner.
Which Sound Therapy International Program should I use?
The Family Program is the best option for dyslexic children, with the widest range of frequencies for stimulation plus the "Let's Recite' album for children to speak along with to improve their verbal coordination.
For dyslexic adults, the best Sound Therapy program to start with is the Listening Foundation Program.
Sound Therapy can be used at home, at school, at work, or even while sleeping.
Research on the Tomatis method for Dyslexia
Roy and Roy completed their PhD theses by each studying the same group of five dyslexic boys over a period of 14 months who received remedial training via a Tomatis listening program. No control group was used.
J.N. Roy studied the children's cognitive control and spontaneous speech functioning, using a test which measures focal attention, field articulation, leveling-sharpening and equivalence range. Four of the 5 boys were considered to have benefited from the program using these measures. He concluded that the remediation of audiovocal control using Tomatis treatment improves certain skills necessary to be able to read at an academic level.
R.T. Roy examined changes in the boys' perceptual processing and academic achievement. He found significant gains, though only 1 of the 5 exhibited a significant change in the WISC-R Full Scale IQ.
Roy, J.N. (1980). Cognitive control, functioning and spontaneous speech: Intensive case-studies of AudioPsycho-Phonological remedial training with five dyslexic boys. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Ottawa: Ottawa.
Roy, R.T. (1980). Perceptual processing abilities and academic skills: Intensive case-studies of Audio-Psycho-Phonological remedial training with five dyslexic boys. Unpublished doctoral dessertation, University of Ottawa: Ottawa.
Tips for using Sound Therapy for Dyslexia
Dyslexic adults should aim to listen to Sound Therapy for at least 3 hours per day.
A child with dyslexia should listen to Sound Therapy every day for 30 to 60 minutes or more if desired. Listening can be done during sleep, play, homework or travel. If the child wishes to listen at school, parents can ask for the consent of the teacher. This will likely be granted as listening in the classroom will often help the child to concentrate and perform better.
The reading aloud exercise (below) has also been particularly helpful for children with dyslexia.
Reading aloud exercise
Children who are experiencing difficulty with reading can begin this exercise after the first 10 to 20 hours of listening.
The child sits in an erect but comfortable posture and reads aloud while holding the right hand near the mouth, as though holding an imaginary microphone. This has the psychological effect of 'switching on' the voice. It also encourages right ear dominance, which is necessary for the successful conversion of visual symbols into sound.
This exercise should be done for 15 minutes each day, and can be continued until the reading problems are resolved. Encourage the child by making it into a fun game. Give your child positive attention while he or she is reading; this will create a positive association with reading aloud.
- I suffer from a mild, erratic but progressive dyslexia and a reversal of (brain) sphere dominance. Improvement - as well as more patience, better listening capacity, more empathy for my writing students, decreased anxiety and depression and fatigue - has been steady and I am tremendously enthusiastic about sound therapy.
- Cynthia Connell Davis
Rhode Island, USA
- Our son John is in Grade 6 and showing terrific improvement in reading since beginning on the Sound Therapy tapes two months ago. He says a lot of people don't even know he is dyslexic anymore. His teachers are amazed and thrilled, and even his friends have noticed the change in him. John came home last week and reported that two boys said, "Boy, John, you're a lot smarter this year. Last year you were so dumb, but this year you're not." We are so excited, because last year John was in a special program and this year he is in the regular program. He was on medication for his learning disability, but is now off the Ritalin. It makes him especially happy that he doesn't have to take the pills anymore, as they made him sick to his stomach. He loves the baroque music, listening with his Auto-Reverse Walkman all night until the batteries run out. He hated to read before, and now when we have our evening devotions he asks to read and does it very well. It is like a miracle and he improves daily. His grandfather says it's like an alarm went off in his head and he woke up.
- Judy & Gerrit Westerhof
- Our son has been on the Sound Therapy program for two years and it has helped him to overcome his learning disabilities. He started off listening all day and all night to complete his first 300 hours. He is allowed to listen to the tapes in his classes at school. His letter grade at school has increased from a C to where he is now on the B Plus Honour roll. It happened that he was asked to give a testimony in a court case about the experience of having dyslexia, and he ended up telling the Judge all about his experience with Sound Therapy to the great interest of the Judge!
- Mrs Joyce Saben
- My son, Marty, was diagnosed as dyslexic and has had special education since Grade 1. He started using the Sound Therapy tapes during Grade 8. School authorities, counsellors and special education teachers, on evaluating Marty after the first Grade 8 term, were all of the opinion that he would be unable to complete the grade because of his problems (lack of reading comprehension, inattention, short-term memory difficulties). However, we were able to persuade them to keep him in his present school and to give the tapes a chance to work.
- Marty used the tapes overnight, every night for nine months, and he himself reported improved hearing and concentration after about three weeks. The best news of all came after six weeks when he came home from school very excitedly and said, "you know, those tapes are making me smarter! I was half way through an essay this morning and realised that I had actually heard and understood the teacher. I knew the answers and it was easy to write them down!" From then on, even though Marty never became a scholar, his previously strained expression grew happy and relaxed. His ability to deal with Math and English improved greatly. He left school after Grade 10, and is now working at a full-time job and has no trouble at all with the math and language skills he needs. I should add that our other son, David, also used the tapes, for improved concentration and memory. After a few weeks we noticed that his very bent back had straightened right up - and has stayed that way.
- Pat Engbers
British Columbia, Canada